The Spectator

A weekly, UK-based magazine covering current political, economic, and cultural issues. Articles include interviews, commentary, opinion pieces, essays, and cultural criticism.

Articles from September 10

Ancient and Modern: Aristotle on Brexit Voters
It comes as no surprise to find that there has recently been much talk among Brexit supporters about 'the wisdom of crowds'. The question fascinated Aristotle, who discussed it at some length in his Politics .Aristotle (4th century BC) firmly believed...
Barometer
In it togetherCaroline Lucas and Jonathan Bartley were elected co-leaders of the Green party. Has a political party had co-leaders before?-- The Green party of Aotearoa, New Zealand, founded in 1990 from an earlier Values Party, has been co-led since...
'Beryl Bainbridge: Love by All Sorts of Means', by Brendan King - Review
Not all novelists lead a public life. Those who do, however, tend to make a bit of a performance out of it. Beryl Bainbridge's life, even before she started publishing novels, was an act, and during her period of fame she was famous for presenting herself...
'Caught in the Revolution', by Helen Rappaport
Helen Rappaport's new book makes no claim to be a complete account of the Russian revolution. Instead it presents a highly readable and fluent description of the events of 1917 in the capital, Petrograd, as experienced by the city's many foreign residents....
'Closed Casket', by Sophie Hannah - Review
'Clonakilty, God help us,' my Irish mother would say automatically when we drove into the town, in pious remembrance of those who had died there during the famine. Clonakilty acquires another corpse in Closed Casket , Sophie Hannah's second novel to...
Competition: No Idea
In Competition No. 2964 you were invited to suggest a really bad idea for one, or several, of the following: a children's book; an Olympic sport; a television sitcom; a reality TV series.Reading the entry brought back fond if painful memories of Alan...
Confessions of a Rent Boy
You meet all sorts in this line of workI am not surprised that Keith Vaz has been caught sleeping with male hookers. I'm one myself and so I know that overweight married Asians are our staple. We often joke that without Indians and-Middle Eastern guys,...
Corbynites and Parasites
Labour is dying like a cockroach attacked by an emerald jewel waspIt's a long way from Westminster to the banks of the Zambesi. But last week, for me, they linked up. I was lolling on my bed in the Sausage Tree Safari Camp, writing up notes for a travel...
'Crusoe's Island: A Rich and Curious History of Pirates, Castaways and Madness', by Andrew Lambert - Review
Some years ago, when I stepped from an unstable boat onto Juan Fernández island, a friendly man took my bag and introduced himself as Robinson. Ten minutes later, I found a room to rent. The homeowner's first name was Crusoe. Get the idea? Although Defoe...
Dear Mary: Your Problems Solved
Q. We recently stayed for a Saturday night with an old friend and were warned before we arrived that my husband's carer would not be able to join us for dinner as that would make us 13 around the table. We are devoted to our carer and feel that his exclusion...
Death of an Anti-Feminist
This extraordinarily gifted woman saw off a constitutional amendment on the very verge of its passing, and helped create Reagan's majorityPhyllis Schlafly could have been America's number one feminist. She graduated from good universities, wrote important...
Diary: Harold Evans
At weekends in our summerhouse at Quogue on Long Island, we go out to buy the newspapers and paper-cup coffee at the busy 7-Eleven in Westhampton. Several brisk young Hispanic women serve the long line of customers. Nobody mentions Donald Trump, though...
Documentary: The Killing$ of Tony Blair
I had been wondering where Gorgeous George Galloway might pop up next. Defenestrated from his seat in Bradford West, humiliated in the London mayoral elections -- where he received 1.4 per cent of the vote -- and no longer apparently an attractive proposition...
Drink: Grouse Rules
The autumn bank holiday is like the five-minute bell at the opera. The shades of the prison house loom. All over the country, kids are looking for missing kit while mothers are trying to remember where they put the Cash's name tapes -- after they have...
Exhibitions: You Say You Want a Revolution?; Björk Digital
Back in the high optimism of the 2008 presidential campaign, one of Barack Obama's more extravagant hopes was that 'the psychodrama of the baby boom generation' would finally be left behind: that no longer would the kind of radical late-Sixties politics...
'Here I Am', by Jonathan Safran Foer - Review
For Jonathan Safran Foer fans and sceptics alike, Here I Am comes as a wonderful gift, a truly painful, honest book which purports to be about a lot of things but is mainly about one thing: the breakdown of a marriage between a whiny, self-obsessed...
High Life: Taki
I have a question for you, dear readers: is it me, or is there no newspaper or network in America that tells it like it is any more? Take, for example, the Anthony Weiner case. He is the pervert who keeps sending pictures of his penis to women over the...
How to Save a Village Pub
The much-mocked 'localism agenda' is letting villages save their threatened pubs - including, I hope, mineIn one village after another across the country, pubs are closing, as many as 25 a week by some counts, and this is accepted with English fatalism....
'How to Travel without Seeing: Dispatches from the New Latin America', by Andrés Neuman, Translated by Jeffrey Lawrence - Review
Bogotá airport, immigration form in hand. Tourist, migrant, businessman? Andrés Neuman ponders the descriptors, unsure which to tick. He opts for the second. 'I'd like to be a migrant.' The decision is telling, and frames much of what follows in this...
If You Want a Long and Happy Life, Don't Retire to the Country
There is no cherished assumption that now goes unchallenged. The latest one is that country air is good for you. Ronald Reagan was much mocked when he said in 1981 that 'trees cause more pollution than automobiles do', but scientists later surprised...
James Delingpole: What You Learn When You Learn a Poem by Heart
I've just learned by heart another poem -- my first in nearly 30 years. The one I chose was A.E. Housman's 'On Wenlock Edge', not for any special reason other than that it's part of the canon and that it happened to be in an anthology conveniently to...
James Forsyth: After Brexit, Who Should Britain Let In?
Why has 'trust' became such a dominant issue in British politics in the early 21st century? Is it the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Or the arrogant ineptitude that led to the financial crisis and the bank bailouts? Or the parliamentary...
Leading Article: Migrant Benefits
Calm is slowly returning to the debate about Britain and Europe. The shrillness of the referendum campaign, and the hysteria from people who ought to have known better, is giving way to an acceptance that the end is not nigh and that things could be...
Letters
What Swedes don't saySir: Tove Lifvendahl is, unfortunately, exactly right in her analysis of Swedish immigration and asylum policy ('Sweden's refugee crisis', 3 September). Those in Sweden who support free movement and free trade feel it has long been...
Low Life: Jeremy Clarke
Ladakh, Jammu and KashmirThis morning I was woken just before daylight by the clear 'ting' of a meditation bell. The owner of the house was attending to his religious devotions in the little private chapel across the courtyard from my room. He is an...
Mind Your Language: Doric
I'd seen The Gruffalo in Latin, so I was delighted when Veronica showed me a version her daughter had been given, in Doric. It begins: 'A moose tuik a dander ben the wid./ A tod saw the moose, an the moose luiked guid.' (I take it that every mother...
Mugabe's Last Gasp
Zimbabwe's president is still breathing but his regime is near its endLast week rumours swirled round Zimbabwe that Robert Mugabe, the 92-year-old president, had either died or been incapacitated. The government banned demonstrations after Mugabe's-presidential...
Music: Meeting Malcolm Williamson
I was looking forward to going to Malcolm Williamson's opera English Eccentrics set to a text by Edith Sitwell at the Peacock Theatre partly because my only experience of meeting the composer was so bizarre, not to say traumatic, that I haven't been...
Mystery on Mount Athos
The Holy Mountain, centre of the Orthodox faith, is now a huge building site - with much of the work funded by RussiaI have just returned from one of the world's most secretive states. I had to apply for a visa a month beforehand and send in a copy of...
Notes On. the Douro Valley
They're called quintas, Joana tells us, because the rich families who owned the land along this stretch of the Douro river used to let others work it in return for a fifth of the profits. And in this part of northern Portugal, 'work' means only one thing:...
'On Trails', by Robert Moor - Review
You could say that this book contradicts itself. Robert Moor's chosen topic is trails -- not just walking, where you go for a bit of a stroll and might turn here or might turn there, but specifically trails, where you can only follow one route. He likes...
Opera: Mandela Trilogy; Semiramide
They say that the devil gets all the best tunes, and on the basis of this week's opera-going it would be hard to disagree. Performances by Cape Town Opera and Opera Rara turned their attention on two historical icons: South Africa's anti-apartheid campaigner...
Portrait of the Week
HomeDavid Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, made his first statement to the Commons and said that if membership of a single market meant having to give up control of United Kingdom borders, 'that makes it very improbable'....
'Power and Pragmatism: The Memoirs of Malcolm Rifkind', by Malcolm Rifkind - Review
Never speak on the same platform as Sir Malcolm Rifkind. I tried it once, at a Spectator debate held during the Scottish independence referendum campaign in 2014, and I will not be repeating the experience. The former Foreign Secretary spoke as usual...
'Queen Bees: Six Brilliant and Extraordinary Society Hostesses between the Wars', by Sian Evans - Review
A more appropriate subtitle to this homage to the queen bees of the interwar years might have been 'How to Suck Up in Society', for the servility of these six stately galleons simply beggars belief. Each was a mistress of her art, but the oiliest of...
Radio: The Archers
Such a hoo-ha about The Archers this week as Helen faces trial by jury -- and, much worse, has to confront her horrid husband Rob face-to-face for the first time since she tried to stab him with a knife in the kitchen of Blossom Hill Cottage. Whatever...
Real Life: Melissa Kite
What is happening to estate agents? Or let me put it another way. If the professional classes thought they were going to escape unscathed from 'free movement of people' then they were wrong.I feel it is only fair to warn the office workers and the suited...
Rod Liddle: Why Anjem Choudary Should Not Be in Prison
It was impossible not to feel rather sorry for the radical Muslim 'cleric' Anjem Choudary and his imbecilic henchman Mohammed Rahman as they were each sentenced to five and a half years in prison by a British court. 'Allahu Akbar!' his supporters chanted...
Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray
After three and a quarter centuries in the business, Berry Bros. & Rudd is certainly trad, but it's also reassuringly innovative. So it is that we have here a classic claret but also a Chardonnay from a part of France that doesn't grow it, a blended...
Status Anxiety: Is Keith Vaz a Psychopath?
What's wrong with you?' That was the question an American broadcaster asked Anthony Weiner when his New York City mayoral campaign went up in flames in 2013. Weiner, the subject of a feature-length documentary released earlier this year, had just become...
Television: Inside British Vogue; Cold Feet
With documentary-makers these days, it can be hard to tell the difference between faux-naivety and the real thing. (Personally, I blame Louis Theroux.) Take BBC2's Absolutely Fashion: Inside British Vogue (Thursday), directed and narrated by Richard...
Theatre: The Entertaininer; the Roundabout
Kenneth Branagh's obsession with Larry Olivier's career is becoming such a bizarre act of theatrical necromancy that it deserves to be turned into a drama. Sir Ken and Lord Olivier could be played by the same actor. The Entertainer , written for Larry...
The Brexit Bounce
Remainers promised instant catastrophe. It's not happening. What are they to do now?Next time it comes to redesigning the PPE course at Oxford, I suggest a module beginning with a quotation from George Osborne. It's something he said to the Treasury...
'The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy', by Anthony Gottlieb - Review
The flour is what matters, and not the mill, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg wrote in his notebook in 1799. 'When we ask what time it is, we don't want to know how watches are constructed.'A telling assertion, considering Lichtenberg's place and time. For...
'The French Revolution: From Enlightenment to Tyranny', by Ian Davidson - Review
Assignats are the bane of every student of the French revolution without an economics background. They were the bonds issued by the National Assembly from 1789, underwritten by the sale of newly nationalised church property, and all I ever really grasped...
'The Spies of Winter: The GCHQ Codebreakers Who Fought the Cold War', by Sinclair McKay - Review
There are now enough books about Bletchley Park for it to become part of national mythology, along with the Tudors, Trafalgar, Waterloo, the Somme and Winston Churchill. Rather than rehearse the Enigma story, however, Sinclair McKay describes what happened...
'The Tunnel through Time: A New Route for an Old London Journey', by Gillian Tindall - Review
The year is 1963. A girl is walking around Stepney with a pack of index cards, visiting old residents in their dilapidated houses, drinking strong tea with tinned milk, listening to their stories of happy days past and looking at cracked walls and leaking...
The Vanishing Art of Paper Money
As the Age of the Polymer dawns, Daisy Dunn looks back on the history of the banknoteKublai Khan, said Marco Polo, had 'a more extensive command of treasure than any other sovereign in the universe'. There were no jangling pockets of coins in Kanbalu....
The Wiki Man: Watch out for Chesterton's Fences
There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, 'I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away.'...
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